A look at WCW Starrcade ’96

Events surrounding WCW Starrcade ’96 include:

  • WCW ran a great angle on the December 9th Nitro where Roddy Piper was confronted by Eric Bischoff. Piper grew tired of Bischoff mocking him, resulting in Bischoff being slapped and downed with kicks. Piper then stood on the back of his neck as the nWo ran down but were helpless. The Carolina Panthers Kevin Greene ran in to back Piper up and eventually Mongo McMichael and Arn Anderson joined Piper’s side. Then Greene threatened Mongo to build to their future match as well. A tremendous segment that finally made WCW look competent in the face of the invasion.
  • One week Ted Dibiase and Eric Bischoff took over the Nitro announce booth in part to prep for their anticipated roles as lead announcers for nWo Nitro, which was expected to be a thing in 1997.
  • VK Wallstreet, Big Bubba, Marcus Bagwell and Scott Norton joined the nWo.
  • The George Michael Sports Machine, which was a syndicated sports highlight show that was quite popular for a time, went to a house show to tape footage of Rey Jr. for a feature. WCW had Rey Jr. lose at the event.
  • Harlem Heat is rumored to be talking to the WWF about making a jump.
  • The WCW hotline made up a story about Raven coming to WCW to attempt to boost calls by teasing a major star was on the verge of signing.
  • Eric Bischoff did a newspaper interview where he mocked Vince McMahon for having to use steroids to bulk up from his tiny frame that no woman was interested in.
  • The National Enquirer reported that Loni Anderson was in talks to be part of a WCW angle. WCW denied this.
  • The WWF hired several luchadores to try and help build up hispanic interest in the San Antonio based “Royal Rumble” card being held in a 70,000 seat dome.
  • Jerry Lawler told an athletic commission that wrestling was fake in order to avoid having to pay extra fees. This made headlines in Memphis where Lawler had to go on TV and talk his way out of it.
  • The infamous “Mass Transit Incident” took place in ECW during this time. This was when a teenager lied to get himself on an ECW show as part of a match with the Gangstas. He took on the ring name Mass Transit.  New Jack ended up taking a Xacto knife and slicing his head open so badly he needed 50 stitches to close the wound. His father was at ringside and was freaking out during the whole thing. The incident became a hot seller on the bootleg tape market.
  • The USWA is doing a campy take on the Nation of Domination. They are taking many southern white guys and giving them blended ethnic names based on famous black personalities .

Starrcade ’96
Tony Schiavone, The Brain and The Dream all the action.

J-Crown Champion Ultimo Dragon vs. WCW Cruiserweight champion Dean Malenko 
Mike Tenay joins the commentators so the moves can actually be called. They feel each other out early on, showing one another they are equals. Dragon gets cocky with some kicks that leave him open to be grabbed and Malenko makes him pay with a real nasty back suplex.  Tenay tries to explain to the guys that WCW is screwing up Dragon’s name by calling him the “Ultimate” Dragon. Then Tenay confuses Dusty by calling an Asai moonsault and mentioning that’s Dragon’s last name. Rhodes then ponders that Asai means “dragon” in Japan befoe Tenay corrects him. Dragon dominates the meat of the match, keeping the pressure on Malenko with strikes and torture holds.

Malenko delivers several more back suplexes before trying to dislocate Dragon’s knee with a leg lock. Both men connect with some stiff suplex variants before Malenko delivers an incredible Tombstone. Malenko can’t get the Texas Cloverleaf so he powerbombs Dragon instead. Malenko inadvertently flies to the concrete, and Dragon moonsaults him. Back in the ring a second moonsault misses and Malenko locks him in the Texas Cloverleaf. The crowd rises in anticipation but Sonny Ono distracts Malenko and he releases the hold. When Dean attempts to lock it on again, he is cradled for a near fall I totally bought as the finish. Malenko gets a near fall of his own after a brain buster. This leads to an intricate series of reversals between the men, leading to a double chickenwing back suplex into a bridge for a pin by Dragon at 18:30. The last 8 minutes or so of this was just incredible as they built things to a hell of a crescendo. Tremendous effort from two of the world’s best.

WCW Women’s title tournament finals: Madusa v. Akira Hokuto
Lee Marshall joins the broadcast as WCW’s expert on women’s wrestling. Madusa spends too much time posing and gets jumped.  Hokuto tosses her around by her hair and uses the ropes for leverage to stretch out Madusa. Hokuto chews on Madusa’s shoe as I gag a bit. Hokuto chokes her in various ways in between suplexes. Madusa is getting nothing here. Schiavone calls a tornado DDT a “bulldog”. Madusa tries a powerbomb but Hokuto falls on her. A German suplex fails to finish things for Madusa as Nick Patrick is slow to count. Sonny Ono cracks Madusa with a flag pole and that allows Hokuto to deliver a brainbuster and wins it at 7:08. The title never changed hands again if I remember correctly, and served no real purpose. The match was all over the place and borderline bad.

Roddy Piper cuts a absolutely insane promo where he shakes erratically as he calls himself a midget then downplays the fact that he and Hogan are the biggest stars ever as he names other legends. This somehow leads to talk of bagpipes, childbirth and Christmas. He closes by talking about wearing Roseanne’s bra like a Jew. WHAT THE HELL!?!

Jushin “Thunder” Liger v. Rey Mysterio Jr. 
Liger is only three months removed from having a brain tumor taken out and here he is wrestling. Rey looks tiny even paired with a smaller man like Liger. Liger plays the subtle heel, using rougher tactics early on and signalling to the crowd that he plans to break Rey in half.  Rey uses his speed to frustrate Liger, but Liger suplexes Mysterio from the apron to the floor and then powerbombs him on the ringside mats. Dusty rambles a lot as he doesn’t know what’s going on so he’s joking around. Meanwhile the guys in the ring are exchanging fast paced moves that the announcers aren’t focusing on because they are too busy making jokes.

The men trade a number of high-risk moves that fail to finish the other. Rey plays to the crowd and ends up knocked to the floor. A powerbomb finishes things at 14:14 as Rey can’t take anymore. The men put on a heck of a match, but the announcing took me out of it. I may have to revisit this someday as I feel I didn’t lose myself in the flow of the match as much as I should have. WCW mixed and matched their elite light heavyweights the next night on Nitro and gave us long and exciting bouts with Malenko facing Rey Jr. and Ultimo Dragon battling Liger in a preview of their Tokyo Dome match that was to take place a few days after.

Jeff Jarrett v. Chris Benoit – No DQ 
This is all part of a seemingly endless series of Horsemen arguments where Flair wants Double J to join them, Arn is against it, Debra wants Benoit gone so Woman will be gone and Mongo followed his wife’s orders. Benoit is fired up and he makes Jarrett his bitch in the early going. Jarrett fight back but stops to strut and ends up attacked from behind. The men are throwing lots of punches and aggressive posturing to put over the battle for status that they are undertaking. The hard strikes from Benoit look impressive.

Woman interferes and that brings out Arn Anderson, who shoots Benoit a look. Hugh Morrus and Konnan run down and try and kidnap Woman. Kevin Sullivan shatters a wooden chair over Benoit’s head as Double J is DDT’d on the floor by the Enforcer. Arn rolls Jarrett in the ring and accidently covers Benoit with Jarrett’s hand for the win at 13:48. The Enforcer and Benoit refuse to talk to Mean Gene, so Debra and Mongo come out and shit on Benoit for blowing an easy win. Debra talks about the fans fat wives and Mongo makes a racist comment to end the promo. Good match before the schmozz finish.

WCW World tag titles: The Outsiders v. The Faces of Fear
Scott Hall is outmuscled by both of the brutes. Nash tags in and uses his size to rough up the Barbarian. Meng runs in and Nash is double teamed into a position of weakness. Both teams try cheap shots to gain an advantage as everybody trades bombs. Hall eats the “kick of fear” and Nick Patrick makes sure to chat with Jimmy Hart instead of making the count. The Faces of Fear drop Hall with a number of big blows but Patrick uses slow counts to save the nWo. Syxx chases Hart to the back. Nash tags in after Hall takes a long beating and powerbombs the Barbarian for the win at 11:48. The match was fine but the Nick Patrick angle is getting pretty annoying, but I guess that’s part of the point.

US title tournament finals: Eddie Guerrero vs. Diamond Dallas Page
DDP controls the match in the early portions with a deliberately paced assault of power moves on his smaller opponent. Crowd is surprisingly dead considering both men have been fairly protected for the past year. Guerrero gets a chance to mount some offense after Page misses a corner charge. Eddy doesn’t do much other than some back suplexes before missing a frog splash. Page gets crotched on the top rope and then leaps onto Eddy’s knee crotch first. Guerrero absorbs a big powerbomb but still manages to avoid several Diamond Cutter attempts. Hall, Nash and Syxx run down. Hall hits DDP with a Razor’s Edge. Eddy nails a frog splash on the unconcious Page and wins the title at 15:30. The heel trio then returns and lay a beating on Guerrero after the new champ fended them off briefly. Syxx steals the U.S. title to set up the next program for both men. Match felt it was lacking something, perhaps part of that being the crowd heat. The first ten minutes of the match wasn’t setting new grounds for excitement either.

Lex Luger v. The Giant
Luger establishes he can hold his own by pushing back the Giant while the men were locked up. The Total Package unloads on the Giant, who shoves him away several times before steamrolling Luger to stop the assault. The Giant then starts to wear away at Luger’s back to try and prevent Lex from using the Torture Rack on him. Luger briefly fights back but foolishly attempts a slam and finds himself underneath the Giant as his back gave out. Nick Patrick isn’t the ref for this, despite being the nWo ref, perhaps a bit of subtle storytelling on how important the Giant is looked at in the nWo spectrum. Giant misses a dropkick which allows Luger the chance to rock the Giant with a number of punches before using a neckbreaker to down the Giant. The ref is bumped, which brings in Nick Patrick in as the back up ref. Luger tries to rack Giant as Patrick kicks his leg out from under him. Sting makes his way down as Luger racks the Giant. Syxx runs in and breaks that up. Both men end up down and dazed, which allows Sting to talk to both men privately and then leave his bat behind. Luger gets the bat, low blows the Giant and whacks him twice more for good measure. The pin is academic at 13:23 after that. The announcers drive home the fact that the nWo didn’t help the Giant that much and WCW scored the first counterblow in the war. Solid match, especially considering the participants.

WCW Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hogan brings Liz, Vincent and Ted Dibiase to the ring with him. Crowd goes bonkers for Hot Rod. Hogan stalls to start as Vincent and Liz leave. Hogan is awesome in the heel role, begging off, then telling the ref to watch for Piper’s cheap shots, before cheap shotting Piper himself. Piper won’t stand for that shit and unloads with a plethora of blows to send Hogan heading for a time out. Piper spits on Hogan to show his respect. Hogan rakes Roddy’s eyes and chest. Piper pokes his eyes in response. Awesome.

Hogan bails out again. Hogan rakes his back after Piper uses an aggressive headlock. Piper chokes him and whips him with a belt. The ref is ok with this foreign object usage. Dibiase distracts Piper and that allows Hogan to jump the challenger to his throne. Hogan abuses Roddy’s fake hip with kicks. Things break down and the men just roll on the mat with punches, chokes and hair pulls. They trade big punches as both guys look to be on empty.

Piper misses a knee drop and plays dead. Hogan goes for a leg drop and misses. This brings out The Giant. Ref Randy Anderson manages to miss a seven foot tall, 450 pound man attacking Piper right in the middle of the ring. Giant goes for a chokeslam, but a fan runs in and wrecks the spot as Hogan and the ref both go after the fan as the Giant stands there with Piper in the launch position, waiting for Hogan to hit his que. Piper kicks Hogan away when he finally gets there and then Piper bites the Giant’s schnozz and dumps him out of the ring. Piper locks Hogan in a sleeper and no one believes this will be the finish. Hogan’s arm drops three times at 15:35 and even the ref is shocked. Pyro and ballyhoo is ruined by the Outsiders trying to attack Piper. He fends them off and walks away. The crowd roars for Piper, who just outsmarted the nWo’s A-team. Hogan and the Giant get in one another’s face as the Outsiders try and calm him down. Giant broods and walks off.

Aesthetically speaking, the match was horrible. However as a clash of larger than life personalities, this lived up to hype and then some.

 Final thoughts: WCW got two big wins over the nWo to end the big show of the year on a happy note, as it should be. On top of that, they set up several months of PPV main events with Hogan facing Piper and the Giant and built Luger into a superman who can challenge Hogan if he survives the first part of the year. Plus the mysterious specter of Sting hovers over the WCW vs. nWo war and “Macho Man” Randy Savage is to return soon, setting up a very interesting 1997!


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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